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TV Series Review

"I don't believe in God," Edmond Dantes says in Alexandre Dumas' famed novel The Count of Monte Cristo.

"It doesn't matter," Abbe Faria tells him. "He believes in you."

Miles Finer doesn't believe in God either. He once did—his father's a pastor, after all, and he grew up listening to his daddy's sermons. But a family tragedy smacked the guy upside the head when he was just 8 years old, and that knocked him for a spiritual loop. Miles finally felt like he had just two options: A.) Accept that God can be really spiteful, or B.) Reject the notion of God altogether.

In the end, he chose Option B. Now, walking in what he believes to be an uncaring universe devoid of cosmic meaning, he's found a measure of peace.

"There is no God, and that's OK," Miles tells his podcast listeners. And at that moment, he means it.

But while Miles may not believe in God, God believes in him. Moreover, God—or, should we say, "God"—wants a relationship with him.

But burning bushes are sooo Old Testament. Nothing says "relationship" these days like social media.

Forget that still, small voice: How 'bout a nice smiley emoji?

Faithbook

It takes more than a simple friend request on Facebook to convince Miles of God's reality, naturally. The spiritual wounds he bears go too deep for that. He figures the man or woman behind the cloudy Facebook picture is spiritually catfishing him—a troll in a lamb's clothing.

Still, he, computer whiz Rakesh and Cara Bloom, the journalist and, as the show unfolds, love interest who's helping Miles try to uncover the identity of this mysterious Facebook friend, have to admit that divine or not, something strange is at work.

Through "God's" account, Miles, Rakesh and Cara are connecting with one another and deeply needy people: the poor, the grieving, the angry. Miles begins to serve as his divine Facebook buddy's hands and feet—helping families patch up their relationships, giving a guiding word or two to someone at a moral crossroads. Whoever "God" turns out to be, He (or he) has a real knack for knowing who could use some timely aid.

Along the way, perhaps Miles, Rakesh and Cara can find ways to heal their own wounds, too. Indeed, the process has already begun. Cara reunites with her mother, who left town when Cara was just a little girl. Rakesh learns the importance of vulnerability. And Miles begins to take the first halting steps toward reconciling with his pastor father, Arthur, who was deeply hurt when Miles turned away from faith.

Then there's the role social media plays.

Facebook often serves as a platform for political vitriol or petty envy. At best, its critics argue, it fosters connection in the most vacuous of ways. But whoever "God" is, He clearly has more on His mind than giving a blue thumbs-up to vacation photos. There's something more at work here, something deeper. And Miles—reluctant, skeptical, doubting Miles—is at the center of it all.

Spiritual Media

In a television landscape saturated with dark dramas, Emmy-bait serials and "mature" content in the worst sense of the word, God Friended Me feels positively old-fashioned. It plays by a set of well-nigh forgotten television rules, and plays well.

Brandon Micheal Hall, star of God Friended Me, is a Christian. His real-life mother was a pastor, and he grew up in church: So playing an atheist, he admits, was a challenge. "I like taking roles that are uncomfortable," he said during a recent roundtable discussion (of which Plugged In was a part).

He added that the show is designed to facilitate conversations about one of the most important, but ticklish, subjects today: faith.

"We're telling the story of human connection," he said.

So for all its traditional trappings, God Friended Me feels ambitious, even audacious, in its goals. In a television landscape where religion is often portrayed as a cruel tool or laughable character trait, this CBS drama suggests that God and faith can be conduits for welcome change, salves for our troubled times. It feels a little bit like that network's own 1990s staple Touched by an Angel, or NBC's 1980s drama Highway to Heaven.

But, perhaps in another sign of the times, God Friended Me eschews those shows' overtly supernatural components (angels coming to earth to help folks, etc.) for a more subtle spiritual reality—one where "God" might not be who He says, and one where even His earthbound avatar isn't sure how much to believe. The show seems not just to allow, but to invite questions—perhaps channeling Hall's own view on how to deal with spiritual uncertainties in real life. "The more you push your ideas on someone else, the more that person pushes away," he said.

But some viewers may push away this show for other reasons. Miles lives in New York City, a living tapestry filled with not just every religion known to man, but every lifestyle. And while God Friended Me is certainly better behaved than most hour-long dramas, not everyone we see is as chaste or as well-behaved as we might like. For instance: Miles' lesbian sister, Ali, moves in with her girlfriend and her father—a pastor—seems to be A-OK with their setup (his own girlfriend moved in with him, after all). Sexual dalliances show up elsewhere, and language can be a bit salty, too.

Still, God Friended Me is more navigable than some—one designed to inspire and encourage. In an age in which almost every television show aspires to be edgy and niche, this series just wants to bring folks together again, both in its fictional environs and in the living rooms in which it airs.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Nov. 24, 2019: "Prophet & Loss"
April 14, 2019: "Que Sera Sera"
Oct. 21, 2018: "Error Code 1.61"
Sept. 30, 2018: "Pilot"

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Brandon Micheal Hall as Miles Finer; Violett Beane as Cara Bloom; Javicia Leslie as Ali Finer; Francesca Ling as Parker; Joe Morton as Arthur Finer; Suraj Sharma as Rakesh Sehgal; Shazi Raja as Jaya; Parminder Nagra as Pria Amar; Adam Goldberg as Simon Hayes; Erica Gimpel as Trisha

Director

Distributor

Network

CBS

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

Released

On Video

Year Published

Awards

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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